Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Void 8 - October 11th - 14th

Always remember to fully read the rally book

After my summer trek out west (yes, the ride report will be finished one day, yeah, that's the plan), I have not had a chance to do much riding during the waning summer months or the early part of October.  However, having signed up for both the Void 8 rally as well as the BigTex Rally in consecutive weekends, I was ready to be on the road for a good 10 days or so and racking up about 5500 miles.

Although I have often worked with other riders to develop and compare routes, I have always rode rallies alone.  However, for this year's Void, Rick Bailey and I discussed the possibility of riding the Void together since he would be passengerless this go around. The Rally Book and bonus locations were presented in two parts - the first part was just coordinates that showed up on Saturday and the description of the bonus locations as well as some other twists and turns that was to show up on Wednesday. As promised, the coordinates showed up on Saturday and I quickly started putting together routing plans, without the benefit of the rally book descriptions you were a little in the dark as to what exactly might be the correct route.  However, after playing around with several possibilities, I landed on a route darting up through South Carolina and North Carolina before entering the twists and turns of Western Virgina, Eastern Kentucky, and West Virginia and then dropping into Fredricksburg that would have be traveling about 1250 miles which appeared to be doable for 31 hours.  So after comparing notes with Rick, I decided that it was all we could do for now until Wednesday.

When the rest of the rally book is released, I find that the route that I generally laid out over the weekend was a good one and only minor additions and tweaks were necessary.  So all that was left to do was load it into the GPS, load up the bike, and point south to Brunswick.  After a third grade breakfast with the greatest kiddo in the world, I started my 250 mile trek from Athens to Brunswick.  The weather was incredible - sunny skies in the lower 60's as I took a series of back roads south that would allow me to collect some additional Tour of Georgia locations as well as my personal trek to visit all Georgia Courthouses.  I collected two addition Georgia tour locations and 8 courthouses, before pulling into the hotel a little after 4 p.m.  Just in time for the traditional dinner/drinking/discussion at a local restaurant that we meet at the night before the rally begins.  It was a good group of people - some just completed the 11-day epic Iron Butt Rally (11 days and 11,000 miles of this excitement).  So it was great to hear about the stories that each had about their experience.

Back at the hotel, Rick and I compare notes to ensure that we are on the same page for the route and estimated times.  We discuss a couple of bail out points along the way if needed.  But in general, we feel that we have a very doable route that should land us near the upper end of the finishers list if we pull it off.  We disagree about one bonus location, but don't need to make that decision until Asheville.  (HINT:  Important plot development forthcoming) I double check that I have the call-in text number stored in my phone - yep, there it is from last year - make a series of notes what I need to do after getting my starting receipt and then call it a night.

Unlike some rallies, Scott and Gary (the Rallymasters) put a ton of thought into creating a specific theme for each year's running of the Void - one of the reasons why I love riding in it.  This year's was musical based.  They Rallymasters came up with a great smorgasbord of venues and other off the wall locations that were either directly or not so directly tied to some musical performer.  Since the south is peppered with so much great musical history, they had no trouble coming up with 90+ bonus locations sprinkle throughout the southeast and the northern border states (Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland).

YMCA - One Bonus Down!
Both Rick and I scouted out the same gas station on Friday afternoon to ensure that it would give us a "good" receipt (Correct date/time and city/state information).  So we pull in at about 840 and wait until 850 so we can be on the road.  I top off my tank at 852.  I send the necessary information to the text number stored in my phone and since the instructions said don't wait for a response, another important plot development I store the phone in my tankbag, and head off to the Golden Isles YMCA (remember I said that the bonus locations were tied to a music theme - who hasn't done the YMCA at some wedding or sporting event?).  The day is beautiful and cool and I am excited about pulling off a winning route. 

Love the Smile!!!
Aptly Named for the Void 8
The first few bonus locations are not that exciting.  A music store, a gas station receipt from Statesboro (in and among Georgia Southern football game day traffic), a Motel 6 in Augusta, a pawn store that deals with Guns, and then a florist that sells Roses - get it' Guns 'n Roses?  before pulling up to the James Brown statue in downtown Augusta.  Rick and I arrive at about the same time with several other riders and we descend on the statute the same time when a group of red hat/purple dress ladies are there out on the town.  We get one of them to pose with the statue while holding our flags.  She certainly seem to be mystified by the happenings.  At this point we are slightly ahead of schedule and about 200  miles into the ride.

From Augusta it is a series of US highway up to Greenwood, SC for another gas receipt.  Since Rick and I are significantly ahead of schedule, I use the time to extend the gas stop into a mini break.  After fueling, I pull out my phone just to double check my starting text was received.  Well, imagine my surprise that 1 minute after I sent the text back at 0852, I had a response back saying that I had sent it to the wrong number.  I call over to Rick at the next pump and asked if he got an "ok" message for his starting text.  He said that he did.  I ask what number did he use.  He said the one in the rally book instructions.  I whip out the instructions and there it is right on the front page, but upon closer look it is a different number than last year.  It appears that the number that I used is no longer acceptable for texts just phone calls.  So it is now about 12:45 p.m. and I have don't have a good starting time.  I have a couple of choices.  First, I could say screw it and go home - after all I am only an hour from my house at this point. Second, I can ignore it and worry about when I get in to Fredricksburg tomorrow - not an option, I can't really ignore things.  Third, send Scott a new text with the information and see how many points he will deduct.  I resend (to the correct text number) my starting information and then add the following : "Send this at 0852 to the wrong text number.  But am continuing with my rally."  Rick and I jump on our bikes and head up to Spartansburg.

Oh the things we take pictures of.
The Asheville Music Venue
The ride up to Spartansburg was at first very trying.  I was quite upset that my rally was basically toast now because of my screw up.  I try to keep my spirits up by telling myself that we really don't do these for the trophies (we really don't) but that a few of them are nice additions to the office shelf.  I finally talk myself into enjoying this rally and think of the story that it will turn in to.  So Rick and I hit a Buffalo's Wild Wing and the Case Brothers Piano Tuners before completing our ride into Asheville and the Orange Peel music venue.  Driving into the heart of some sort of street festival in downtown Asheville lead to great people watching but a slow go.  We are now just about on schedule after losing a bit of time since Greenwood.  But we have a decision to make.  Over in Greeneville, TN there is a small bonus location that I thought we should hit.  Rick thought otherwise - too many twisty roads, too late in the day, for too few points.  But I talk him into it and we head to Greeneville.  Long story short - Rick was right.  The ride over was beautiful at times, but passing was difficult and the points just didn't justify the 45 minutes of time we have lost.  We should have stayed on I-26 to Kingsport.  But alas, we didn't and started to fight the clock as darkness and a short rain shower began to fall upon us.

Carter's Fold
We quickly hit the giant Indian statue and head over to the Carter's Fold outside of Hiltons, VA.  What a sight.  Every Saturday night they still host bluegrass/Appalachia music concerts and they were getting everyone parked as Rick and I pull up with the setting sun.  Typically, I try to be fairly respectful when pulling up to a bonus location and not attract too much attention.  However, having looked at the place on-line before the rally started, I knew that it would be important to pull up close to the building and head back out as quickly as possible.  So I ride past the guys directing people where to park and pull up into the VIP area and ride almost up to the record image on the side of the building.  An older gentleman manning this area and moving the VIP cars into place seemed to understand that something was up when I pulled in and let me do my thing and head out.  The only hiccup was the gravel lot was incredibly uneven and on a slope that seemed to be much worse that I initially thought so turning around was a challenge but I managed to keep everything right side up - much to Rick's entertainment.  After all with the wing all he had to do was put it into reverse.

Pulling away from the Carter's Fold, we need to check in with the Rallymaster via text message.  Mine goes through without incident (thanks Verizon).  Rick's doesn't without a cell signal (boo AT&T).  So we head down the road and try again and he succeeds.  It is now dark and we have several hours of twisty mountain roads ahead of us.

Crooked Trail Visitor Information
We hit a small visitor information sign announcing the The Crooked Road - Virginia's musical trail.  While there another rider swops in snaps his picture and moves on.  It was a blur.  Don't think he is from Brunswick, thought.

Van Lear Museum
From there it is deeper into Kentucky's back roads to hit the Patty Loveless homestead area outside of Elkhorn City, KY, a phone booth for Dwight Yoakam in Pikeville (after an unplanned detour on the brand new bypass), and hitting the Van Lear Coal Miner's Museum in Butcher Hollow - home to Loretta Lynn.  The museum doubles as an Haunted House in the fall and it was quite the happening place as fifty or some teenagers are waiting in line to go through it.  At 10:50 p.m. we are still a little behind schedule, but making good time.

Blame this theater for Miley Cyrus
It is an hour trek up to Ashland, KY to finish out the day.  It is an hour riding in complete darkness but on a very good four lane divided US Highway 23.  I get the sense that we are riding through a river valley based on the recreational areas and power plants that we pass, but can't be sure.  Driving into Ashland is easy going, with limited traffic and the two locations are within a few blocks of each other.  We stop by the theater where Billy Ray Cyrus filmed the Achy Breaky Heart video and then over to the fire department.I lead the way and Rick and I make the short run up into Ohio because that is what Miss Garmin said and point the bikes towards the hotel in West Virginia.  Getting gas before getting out of town leads us to an incredible site of two 20-somethings coming back from a costume party.  Let's just say that I don't think that police officer outfit was departmentally issued!

We hit the final bonus location in Cross Lanes, WV before finishing out the day with a rest receipt at a gas station.  We check into the hotel and set the alarm for about 2 1/2 hours.  Crash hard and are both up at 4 a.m. and heading back to the gas station to end the rest bonus.

Back on the road we know that we will be riding into rain today - just hope to get through the mountains of WV first - or at least get into daylight.  The first stop of the day is a receipt documenting that we were in Charleston.  Easy right - well no.  I chose a gas station right in the shadow of the capital building to be sure that we were in Charleston but both the pump and store give bad receipts.  We were just about to head over to McDonalds when the clerk says that the lottery machine might give a good receipt.  Sure enough it does.  Mission accomplished and back on the bikes - but first we witness a very drunk/high young lady having trouble getting (and staying) in a taxi cab.  The commotion has attracted several taxi drivers so I figure it is time to get moving before more attention is paid.

From Charleston, it is down to Oak Hill to pay respect to the city where Hank Williams took his last breath.  The marker was easy to find in the shadows of their main street and then it is over the mountains to a civil war statue in Valley Head, WV.  Fortunately it remained dry as the morning light crept over the mountains behind the clouds and, as we are pulling out, the rain starts and we won't see dry until after the rally is completed.

A quick stop for the Purple Fiddle in Thomas, WV and gas in Gormania, WV, both Rick and I are feeling pretty good.  US 50 in West Virginia and Western Virginia is a pretty decent road and although the rain slows us down, we are making good time.  We do stop for a quick break to allow me to better water protect my bag and Rick to capture a few puffs.  And we continue to head east into Winchester, VA for the bell tower honoring Patsy Cline. It is almost noon and quite frankly I'm done with this rally and just want to get to the hotel.  But Rick convinces me otherwise and we complete our route by heading up to the Rainbow Road honky-tonk in Rippon, WV.

We point the bikes to Fredricksburg and even though my Garmin probably didn't route us the best way, we hit the Cracker Barrel at 2:10 and pull across the finish line at 2:20.  The penalty window started at 2:00 so the finishing paperwork must be done quickly.  I get mine finished and time stamped at 2:50 p.m.  So I will lose some points for being late - but does it really matter since I didn't start correctly?

Resting it off.
The scoring process was easy and I didn't loose any points as the scorer ran through each of my photos and receipts.  I finish with 1,849 points.  But now, it is time to see what my bonehead starting move will provide in the negative category.  The damage is revealed to be 4,286 point penalty based on the time that elapsed until I got my starting information to the right person.  OUCH!  So I end up with -2,437 points.  Not going to win this one!

The dinner was very tasty and the company incredible.  The results are read through and I am happy to hear that Rick finished in second place.  Not to pour salt into the wound, but my 1,849 points would have won - just edging out John Bailey - a very capable C14 rider by 2 points.  But alas, it was not to be and I am deep at the bottom.

The ride home to Athens was quick the next morning.  It was one of those days that had light traffic and overcast skies.  I quickly got into a grove and made the trek home with limited stops.  Overall, it was a great rally and the rally book is being held so I can explore other locations while out and about since they did such a great job with the write-ups.

On to the Big Texas Rally.